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Player Profile #40: Jayson Werth | OF | WAS

Prior to 2013, Jayson Werth was on the verge of having that dreaded “worst contract in baseball” tag (that title is still held by Vernon Wells until the end of 2014, by the way). However, Werth put together arguably the best season of his career and thus redeemed himself.

Just for nostalgia, it’s Werth (see what I did there?) taking a look back at how good he was with the Phillies, and just how bad he was in his first two seasons in a Nationals uniform.

Team R HR RBI SB BA
Phillies (2008-2010) 92 29 84 18 .279
Nationals (2011-2012) 56 15 45 14 .256

The above is a pretty simple chart. Werth was a great player with the Phillies, but a terrible player with the Nationals. In his defense his 2012 season was racked with injuries. In May of that year he broke his wrist and missed 87 games. When he returned he had no power,  which is not all that surprising considering the injury.

In 2011, though, Werth was horrific — slashing .232/.330/.389. He was a drastically different hitter in 2013, putting up arguably his best offensive season in his career. Let’s take a  look at his peripherals:

Year BB% K% LD% GB% FB% HR/FB
2011 11.4 24.7 16.8 43.0 40.2 12.3%
2012 12.2 16.6 18.9 42.2 38.9 5.3%
2013 11.3 19.0 26.0 36.1 38.0 18.0%

In 2011 everything went wrong for Werth, it’s like he forgot how to hit. There was some slight improvement in 2012 in that his K% dropped and his LD% crept back up, but his total lack of power killed any potential fantasy value. In 2013, everything clicked back on as Werth put up great numbers, including his 26.0 LD%.

Werth would be hard pressed to put together another season like 2013 and we’re expecting a significant decrease in batting average. The question you have to ask yourself is whether  you believe 2011 was just a fluke where the pressure of the big contract got to him? Based on his other career numbers, I’d say that’s a pretty good bet.

At A Glance

  • Strengths: HR, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, BB
  • Neutral: R, RBI, SB, K
  • Weaknesses: 2B, 3B

Players With Similar Fantasy Value

2014 Fantasy Baseball Projection

2014 Projection: 643 PA, 83 R, 25 HR, 86 RBI, 12 SB, .285 BA

Overall Rank: 40 | OF Rank: 15

It’s likely that Werth’s rough 2011 and 2012 seasons, paired with his 37 games missed in 2013 will keep a sour taste in fantasy owners’ mouths.

While our projection for Werth really shows some batting average regression he stands to replicate the counting stats we saw in 2013. He really picked things up in the second half last year as he posted a .339 BA and .261 ISO thanks to a 30.3 LD% and 20.5% HR/FB rate.

While those numbers aren’t easy to sustain, they aren’t astronomically off some of his better career rates. There are a ton of news reports talking about how he raised his hands in his stance. You can see the difference below.

werth_vs_mets

See how low his hands are here in a game against the Mets in mid-April.

werth_v_pirates

And here he is in July against the Pirates. Big difference! Werth attributes this slight change in his stance to his increased power.

We obviously assume, based on our projected numbers,  that Werth has figured out what ailed him in 2011, whether it be his change in stance or just getting his head right. He’s slated to hit cleanup in the Nationals lineup ahead of Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Denard Span. The only real weakness in that group is Span and with a more consistent presence atop the order, Werth could be a good bet for 100+ RBI.

It’s likely that Werth’s rough 2011 and 2012 seasons, paired with his 37 games missed in 2013 will keep a sour taste in fantasy owners’ mouths. If his draft stock drops past the 4th or 5th rounds, you’ll be getting a good value.

2015 & Beyond

Werth is going into his age-35 season and the Nationals have him signed through 2017. At this age you would expect to see the begin of his decline in the next year or so. The hope for Werth relies on him keeping his spot in the heart of the Nationals order, which will allow for him to post solid R/RBI numbers despite a slight dip in his batting average production.

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